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Rice fields can be considered man-managed temporary wetlands. Five rice fields handled with different management strategies, their adjacent channels, and a spring were analysed by their benthic macroinvertebrate community to i) evaluate the role of rice agroe- cosystem in biodiversity conservation; ii) find indicator species which can be used to compare the ecological status of natural wetlands with rice agroecosystems; and iii) find the influence of environmental variables on biodiversity. Different methods of data analysis with increasing degree of complexity – from diversity index up to sophisticated multivariate analysis – were used. The investigation provided a picture of benthic macroinvertebrates inhabiting rice agroecosystems where 173 taxa were identified, 89 of which detected in rice paddies. Among them, 4 phyla (Mollusca, Annelida, Nematomorpha, and Arthropoda), 8 classes (Bivalvia, Gastropoda, Oligochaeta, Hirudinea, Gordioida, Insecta, Branchiopoda, and Malacostraca), 24 orders, 68 families, 127 genera and 159 species have been found. Ten threatened and 3 invasive species were detected in the habitats examined. The information obtained by the different methods of data analysis allowed a more comprehensive view on the value of the components of rice agroecosystems. Data analyses highlighted significant differences between habitats (feeding channel and rice field), with higher diversity observed in channels, and emphasised the role of the water chemical-physical parameters. The period of water permanence in rice fields resulted to be only one of the factors influencing the community of benthic macroinvertebrates. The presence of rare/endangered species allowed characterising some stations, but it was less informative about management strategies in rice paddies because most of these species were absent in rice fields.
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